The deep sea, previously considered untouchably remote, is a lot closer than many perceive.  Human-generated pollution, overfishing, and climate change have a direct impact on deep-sea environments and their inhabitants.  Lisa Levin has investigated a variety of bizarre creatures that have adapted to extreme deep sea settings, from toxic methane seeps to massive zones where oxygen levels are next to nothing. Oceans cover two-thirds of our planet, yet we know more about the moon’s surface than the deep ocean.
A clump of tubeworms and a juvenille crab were found in the Del Mar Seep

A clump of tubeworms and a juvenille crab were found in the Del Mar Seep

One such zone exists off California at roughly 600 to 1,000 meters (2,000 to 3,200 feet) deep, part of a continuous zone that spans from Alaska to central Chile. Because such zones occur naturally, Levin says they have become an important comparative tool for studying human-produced “dead zones” created by pollution and ocean warming. The animals living in hypoxic zones employ a variety of strategies to make a living there, including those with specialized gills or tentacles to extract what little oxygen is available.


“The deep sea is not that far away in terms of our activities and impact,” said Levin noting an assortment of urban items from shoes to beer cans in the depths. Much remains to be studied and explored in the deep sea especially before humanity reaches down into the ocean depths and irreversibly changes what’s there. “By not knowing what’s down there, we run the risk of destroying things before we’ve discovered them. Every time we make a new discovery we learn more about how life works and how it evolved.”

DOSI is a consortium of participants from 14 countries who seek to integrate science, technology, policy, law and economics to advise on ecosystem-based management of resource use in  the deep ocean and strategies to maintain the integrity of deep-ocean ecosystems within and beyond national jurisdiction.

Participants at the first DOSI workshop in Mexico City.

Participants at the first DOSI workshop in Mexico City.


  • Levin, L & Baker, M. (2019) Grand Challenge for the Deep. Eco Magazine. Jan/Feb 2019.
  • Rabone, M et al. (2019). Access to Marine Genetic Resources (MGR): Raising Awareness of Best-Practice Through a New Agreement for Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ). Front. Mar. Sci. 6:520. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2019.00520
  • DOSI Policy Brief – Deoxygenation (August 2019). Climate/BBNJ Working Groups
  • DOSI Policy Brief – Climate change considerations are fundamental to sustainable management of deep seabed mining (July 2019). Climate/Minerals Working Groups